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Oscar Winning Author And Illustrator Charlie Mackesy Shows That Nothing Can Beat Kindness

In a world full of noise and distractions, there’s a little book that stands out with its simplicity, kindness and real human connection. Through his marvelous illustrations, Charlie Mackesy is sending us a message about the meaning of life, the importance of love and empathy towards one another: “Always remember you matter, you’re important and you are loved, and you bring to this world things no one else can.”

Charlie Mackesy takes audiences of all ages on an extraordinary journey deep within our own hearts

Image credits: Apple TV

The artist was born in 1962 in Northumberland, England. As a kid, he would spend lots of time in nature: “Safety is in the animal world. You can trust them. I understood what they were about, but I didn’t quite understand people,” said Charlie.

He described his boarding school experience as difficult and, at 16, he absconded to the local state school, where he found a greater sense of belonging.

Image credits: Charlie Mackesy

At the age 18, he lost his best friend Jamie and everything suddenly turned upside down: “I suddenly realised that everything I had been told was important was not important,” said Charlie.

Drawing helped him to deal with unbearably deep grief. It was where Charlie had found his focus and his flow: “Drawing helps: drawing and music. Bizarrely, I can draw for hours.”

Drawing, which started as a way out of deep grief, touched millions of hearts

Image credits: Barnes & Noble

Image credits: Barnes & Noble

Charlie Mackesy usually likes to introduce himself as “a random scruffy artist, who happens to have made a little book” yet before the success of his book, he was a well-known and highly regarded artist. Charlie was working as a cartoonist for The Spectator and an illustrator for the Oxford University Press, designing posters for brands such as Cockspur rum, selling his works to people like Whoopi Goldberg and Sting and in 2006, he was selected as one of the contemporary artists to collaborate with Nelson Mandela on The Unity Series – a collection of prints, overlaid with drawings illustrating what Mandela meant to each artist.

In the days before his world-known book was published, he would send drawings via WhatsApp to his friends who were having a tough time. “They were quite ruthless,” he admitted. “If I said something trite, like, ‘It’s all going to be okay,’ they’d tell me to f*** off. That was good, because it kept me away from clichéd comments. It may not be okay, but what can we do in the midst of it not being okay? Well, we can love each other,” said Charlie.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse came out as a conversation about the main life questions. “I remember a good friend talking to me about what he thought courage was and what he said annoyed me, so I drew the Boy asking the Horse, ‘What is the bravest thing you ever said?’ and the Horse replying, ‘Help’,” shared Charlie.

Image credits: charliemackesy

Mackesy posted this drawing on a Facebook gallery and when he returned to it a couple of weeks later, “it had gone crazy. It had reached one million people. The comments were endless. I got an email from a military unit asking if they could use the drawing to encourage soldiers not to think of asking for help as weakness.”

The artist kept developing the stories and distributed these pieces solely via social media. “I’ve been an artist for most of my life and there was always some sort of worth put on drawings. Galleries put a value on everything. Then suddenly there was no money in it, but you were doing what you felt you had been called to do in the first place, which was to try to make people’s lives better,” shared Charlie.

Charlie’s book became a symbol of hope for uncertain times

Image credits: charliemackesy

The book was published in October 2019, right before the pandemic struck, and had a very strong impact on thousands of people, often in lockdown or working in hospitals, depended on the kindness of others.

“I had emails from hospitals across the world,” said Mackesy. “I was overwhelmed. I would get letters from school children, from prisons and from doctors and nurses who are just so brave and they said the book was helping them through the pandemic. I keep them all in a file. I still look at them at night. Book sales are not important to me, but these letters mean everything,” added the artist.

There’s an image of a boy sitting on a horse beneath a rainbow and the text says: “‘What’s the best thing you’ve learned about storms?’ asks the boy. ‘That they end,’ the horse replies.” This message has been a source of hope to many people all over the world.

Image credits: charliemackesy

Image credits: charliemackesy

Charlie mentioned that his book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse could be called the work of a lifetime. “It’s a distillation of everything I have felt about life,” he conceded.

The artist also shared that he often feels and loves too much, yet if there was a red button he could press that would stop him from feeling, he would never press it because that’s not really living. “To be human is to feel an awful lot,” he added.

When asked about the main characters, Charlie pointed into himself. He has suffered from anxiety and depression, therefore all 4 represent different parts of his own journey to vulnerability: the boy is loosely based on him, the mole was inspired by his beloved 14-year-old dog Barney, the fox is Mackesy’s anxious part and the horse is a wise soul.

“The boy to me was always quite lonely so I would put him on a tiny landscape with snow falling. I felt like he should just sit down in the snow into his own shadow, almost as a protest about feeling so lost. Human beings need connection and along comes the mole, who is the most socially courageous, he always says hello first. The fox has the greatest arc in the story, with the line about being loved. When we are vulnerable with each other, we are strong. They dared to show their weak side and they bonded and they found their home in each other.”

In all these years of drawing for Mackesy, who lives alone with his dog, the best achievement is all the people’s lives he touched. “I had someone come up to me and say, ‘I just want you to know that I decided to stay, I’m still here today because of this book’. Someone else told me I have given people licence to be kind. The sheer energy and support has carried me through the last few years,” shared Charlie.

Charlie’s book speaks about love, kindness and empathy that all together create the true meaning of life

Image credits: Apple TV

“When I draw I feel like I am connecting with people. I’m so grateful for everything that has happened. I cry a lot more now. I’m a bit scruffier than I was. I’m very moved by human beings, more than ever before. The sharing of humanity has blown my heart apart, it has ripped it open over the last three years,” said the artist.

Image credits: charliemackesy

61-year-old Charlie worked from a barn in Suffolk, collaborating with 130 animators during 3,000 hours of Zoom calls across two years to create the film, based on his heartwarming tale The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, in which every frame was hand-drawn. All the hard work paid off and in 2023, it won an Oscar for the best animated short film. Funny enough, 15 minutes before announcement, Charlie was hiding in the toilet because of anxiety. Worried about the cameras and the crowd, he shared a heartwarming note on a napkin with his 1.8 million Instagram followers:

Image credits: charliemackesy

The 35-minute film was shown on BBC One on Christmas Day and went on to win a BAFTA for best British short animation alongside the Oscar. Yet the greatest award, Charlie would still say, is feedback from his fans: “I get emails every single day. On a daily basis someone makes me weep. That is the greatest award for me. The small things in life are the big things.”

The short animation based on heartwarming tale The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse won an Oscar for Charlie Mackesy

Image credits: Apple TV

It’s also important to mention that Charlie collaborates with a number of charities, including Comic Relief. He created the Love Wins t-shirt as well as the NHS, Choose Love, WWF and The Samaritans. During the pandemic period, he donated prints, books, drew on hospital walls and posted messages of support to NHS workers, which he still continues.

“Our finger prints don’t fade from the lives we touch,” once said Judy Blume, and I can’t find better words to describe how I feel about Charlie Mackesy’s work. I think he not only found the way to millions of people’s hearts but as well encouraged many of us to share kindness, to not be afraid of being vulnerable and to not give up on love because, as Charlie beautifully said, we are all here “to love and to be loved.”

The artist is continuously receiving grateful messages from all over the globe

Source: Bored Panda

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Written by Jonas

Jonas is a writer at Nasty Bear with a degree in Communication. After working as a teacher, he loves visual storytelling, and he enjoys covering viral stuff to photography. Over a million people have read the posts he's written throughout his years in Nasty Bear, which is probably more than he could count to.

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